We are surprised to learn that Italians and Romans are not all aware of how much Ostia Antica has to offer - perhaps because they associate the name with the seaside resort. Pompeii and Herculaneum have the dramatic accompanying story which makes their sites really interesting from a historical as well as a cultural and architectural point of view, but because of what happened to them, you do not get the same sense of what the places really looked like, whereas Ostia, which went into a period of decline rather than being damaged / destroyed really *does* give more of a sense and a feel of what it was like to live in Roman towns.
Other reviewers have described fully what the site has to offer, and I concur with them. It is packed full of places and mosaics, and there is a real 'freedom' in being able to wander around. I downloaded an app 'Ostia Antica' (about £3.50) which gave useful background and which I have enjoyed looking at later to 'picture' better what it all looked like. To be honest, I did not look at it that much during the visit itself even though it does offer three tours depending on the time you have. We found the signs at the site very helpful for giving background info in English and Italian. I also bought the book in the shop 'Ostia Antica' with overlays.
There is a really good site for preparation and follow up: http://www.ostia-antica.org/
Ostia Antica is closed on Mondays.
Travel from Rome: We used the 'Moovit' app to plan / confirm journeys. It took just under an hour from our hotel Fontanelle Borghese, and we enjoyed the 'experience' of travelling on public transport! The locals were kind and helpful! (Although most speak English, they really like it when you try out some Italian!) Our Roma Pass covered the journey. We took a bus number 30 which stops near the metro to the Piramide station, which is next door to the station called 'Ostiense' where we got a train to Ostia Antica. (You hold the Roma Pass over a sensor, like an Oyster card on the London Underground). Coming back the sensor did not work on the barrier to the station, so for the first time in my life, I had to jump over a barrier and then felt the need to explain to the carriage what had happened. Not easy!
Itinerary: We waited until the bookshop to buy the 2 euro map/plan - should have tried to get it sooner. There really is LOADS to see. We decided to see pretty much all of it at a leisurely place, arrived at around 11.30 am and left at about 6 pm. There was a sign saying 'no audio guides' at the entrance, but then we saw some people with audio guides later on.. so if you want one, perhaps ask about it at the entrance.
Practical: The pine trees offer good protection, but there are sections without shade, so take sun cream / hat for those bits! Comfortable shoes are a 'must'. (BTW, 'a must' appears to be an expression in Italian as well!) The café is great - air conditioned with clear glass so that you still feel as though you are outdoors and pleasant staff. The toilets are clean - some at the station, just outside and at the café.
An added extra at the moment is the exhibition of sculpture 'In Praise of Beauty' by Francesco Messina (1900-1995). Lovely sculptures both in the grounds and in the museum.
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